NORTHERN MANHATTAN — After months of mud-slinging, name-calling and accusations of race-baiting, the two top candidates for the 13th District congressional seat took a break from trading insults as voters headed to the polls Tuesday.
"I don't want to talk about what happened in the last two-three months," said Espaillat, who voted at P.S. 98 in Inwood accompanied by his 4-month-old grandson and other family members. "I want voters to be able to exercise their right to vote in a calm, democratic manner."
"Nothing against the congressman, I have great respect for him, but he's part of the past," he added of Rangel. "We are part of the future, and we are moving forward."
Rangel, who cast his vote Tuesday morning outside P.S. 175 in Harlem, accompanied by his wife, Alma, and Public Advocate Letitia James, also kept up the polite demeanor, calling the often-contentious race "civil."
He brushed off criticism that the competition with Espaillat had sunk to race-baiting, saying, "This district has never decided campaigns on where persons were born, the language they speak, what religion they belong to or whether they are white or black," said Rangel, who is seeking his 23rd term in Washington.
Rangel said that this would be his final race.
"I told my wife of over 50 years that it would be the last time I would be voting for myself," he said.
Alma Rangel, standing beside her husband, agreed.
"I think he deserves the chance. His record speaks for itself," Alma Rangel said. "He promised me he's going to take me to Paris right after this is over. He needs the rest."
Espaillat also said he was looking ahead to a big win Tuesday night, saying: "I believe very strongly that we will win tonight, and we will win by a comfortable margin."
Voters were divided.
Harlem resident Maxine McCrey said she was supporting Rangel.
"He's earned his last two years. We didn't give it to him," said the community activist and actor who voted at P.S. 175. "He's done so much for this district and this country. The empowerment zone just wasn't for Harlem. When he stood up for Obamacare, it just wasn't to help Harlem."
Meanwhile, Inwood resident Nicholas Lyndon had harsh words for both candidates, though he declined to share for whom he voted. "I'm not really happy with either candidate. Rangel shot himself in the foot with his scandals, and Espaillat has never really appealed to me."